Camping During Coronavirus + COVID-19

As summer approaches, Californians face the unfortunate reality that camping, fishing, backpacking, and other outdoor pursuits will not proceed as planned this year due to the coronavirus. This page is an attempt to catalog what’s open and what isn’t, and to provide updates as conditions evolve. 

Updated May 17, 2020

Can I go camping during the coronavirus pandemic?

No, you shouldn’t go camping right now.

Even though certain parts of California are beginning to reopen, the entire state remains under a stay-at-home order requiring all residents to stay home, except when venturing out for essential needs like food and medicine. Exercising locally is also permitted. Unfortunately, camping and backpacking are not considered essential. While pitching a tent may seem like a good way to practice social distancing, you risk transmitting the coronovirus whenever you stop to buy gas, groceries, or fishing tackle. Traveling puts small, elderly, rural communities with insufficient access to healthcare at risk. Please stay home.

California State Parks

Campgrounds are closed at all state parks

California State Parks announced the closure of all campgrounds on March 17, 2020. 

Vehicle access is closed at all state parks

On March 29th, California State Parks announced that all 280 state parks could be closed to vehicles access.

Some State Parks + Beaches Are Completely Closed

Please click through for a list of closed parks. All beaches, trails, and restrooms within these parks are closed. With the exception of the closed parks and beaches, non-campground outdoor areas of open parks­­ remain accessible to local residents.

Beaches and State Parks in Orange County Are Reopening

Orange County officials are reopening shuttered parking lots at popular county parks and wilderness areas in coming days, adding options for people to get outdoors within 60,000 acres of open space amid the coronavirus pandemic. Along the coast, some beaches will also start a phased opening up of parking lots. (From The OC Register)

Visit the State Parks COVID-19 Resource Center for more information and updates.

California’s National Parks

Channel Islands National Park Is partially open

The mainland visitor center is closed until further notice. The park transportation concessioner Island Packers has temporarily cancelled boat service to the islands. However, the islands are open for private boater landings.

Death Valley National Park is closed

Death Valley National Park is closed, due to public health concerns. All park facilities, restrooms, viewpoints, trails, roads, and campgrounds are closed until further notice. CA-190 and Daylight Pass are open to pass-through traffic.

Joshua Tree National Park is closed

Joshua Tree National Park is modifying operations to support federal, state, and local efforts to slow the spread of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). The park is closed to all visitors. Park rangers remain on duty protecting Joshua Tree National Park. The park is closed to all visitors including hikers, bikers, and vehicles.

Lassen Volcanic National Park is closed

Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Health Service officers, Lassen Volcanic National Park is temporarily closed as of March 27, 2020.

Pinnacles National Park is partially open

Pinnacles NP is closed to all day-use visitation. The campground remains open. Existing reservations are required to enter the park, prior to arrival. Campers must arrive between 8am-6pm. No walk-ins permitted. Previous closures remain in effect.

Following guidance from the CDC, the West side of the park, and all Nature Centers and Visitor Centers are closed. Shuttles are not be operating at this time.

Following guidance from the CDC and recommendations from state and local public health in consultation with NPS Public Safety Officers, the Bear Gulch Caves, Balconies Caves, and High Peaks Steep and Narrow trails are closed, effective 3/19/20.

Sequoia + Kings Canyon National Park is closed

Effective 3/25, Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks are temporarily closed to all visitors until further notice. CA Hwy 180 remains open for through traffic to access Forest Service land and private property. All other roads and parking lots are closed.

Redwood National Park is partially open

The park remains open but modifications to operations are in effect to slow the spread of COVID-19, including: closed facilities, limited services, and closures of many areas and roads to vehicles.

Yosemite National Park is closed

Yosemite National Park has modified operations at the request of the local health department. Yosemite National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice.

California’s National Forests

Developed Recreation Sites Are Closed At All National Forests in california

Campgrounds, day-use areas, restrooms, boat ramps, cabin rentals, and visitor centers will be closed through at least May 31, 2020 (originally May 21, but the order was extended). While designated recreation sites will be closed, the general forest area including the extensive trail ystem will remain open and available to the public unless otherwise noted by Foret Service order.

While not all national forests have issued orders explicitly banning forest use for things like dispersed camping, backpacking, and hiking, such activities are prohibited under California’s statewide stay at home order. The U.S. Forest Service is also telling folks to exercise close to home and resist traveling for recreation needs.

Angeles National Forest — previously closed roads, trailheads + trails now open

Angeles National Forest had closed 4 formal trailheads and 23 informal trail access points until at least April 30th, resulting in a larger closure of 23 trails and 19 roads. In total, this resulted in the closure of 81.5 miles of trail (out of 760 open miles) and 54.5 miles of road. The closure did not close the ability to walk on to National Forest System land but did restrict access to roughly 40,000 out of 700,000 acres of the Angeles National Forest. The order expired on April 30th and was not extended.

Cleveland National Forest — some trailheads + roads closed

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health safety of its visitors, volunteers and employees the Cleveland National Forest will temporarily shut down some trailheads, roads and the Corral Canyon OHV Area effective April 11, 2020 through June 1, 2020 (originally April 30th before the order was extended). Please click through to see a list of roads affected.

Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest —overnight camping is no longer banned in Alpine County

At the request of Alpine County in California, all Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest lands within the boundaries of the county will be temporarily closed to overnight camping starting on Saturday, April 25, 2020 until at least May 16, 2020. The order has not been extended and overnight camping is allowed, provided all other restrictions are followed.

Inyo National Forest — Campfires Banned in 2020

Building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire, or stove fire, except in certain Developed Recreation Sites, is prohibited May 13, 2020 through December 31, 2020 or until rescinded. This includes all Inyo National Forest Land, whether you are dispersed camping or backpacking.

Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit — South Shore Recreation Corridor is closed

In alignment with current federal, state and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health and safety of its employees, visitors and volunteers, the USDA Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit will temporarily close national forest recreation sites and areas in the South Shore Recreation Corridor effective April 13 through April 30, 2020.

Los Padres National Forest — some roads, trailheads + trails closed

An emergency closure is in effect for some areas in the Monterey Ranger District until at least May 31, 2020. Please click through to see a list of affected roads, trailheads, and trails.

Los Padres National Forest — campfires are banned

Effective May 12, 2020 the following restrictions will be in effect: No open fires, campfires or charcoal fires will be permitted outside of developed recreation sites or designated Campfire Use Sites, even with a valid Campfire Permit. Lanterns and portable stoves using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel will be permitted, but only with a valid CA Campfire Permit, which is available on the Forest website and at any U.S. Forest Service office. Forest visitors must clear all flammable material for five feet in all directions from their camp stove, have a shovel available, and ensure that a responsible person attends the stove at all times during use.

Stanislaus National Forest — some roads are closed

In alignment with current federal, state, and local guidance for social distancing and to ensure health safety of its visitors, employees and local communities, the Stanislaus National Forest has extended the seasonal road closure, and closed seven additional roads along with some high-use areas effective April 5, 2020 through May June 30, 2020 (originally April 30th before the order was extended). This closure was in addition to developed recreation sites that were closed on March 26.

While not all national forests have issued orders explicitly banning forest use for things like dispersed camping, backpacking, and hiking, such activities are prohibited under California’s statewide stay at home order. The U.S. Forest Service is also encouraging folks to exercise close to home and resist traveling for recreation needs.

Bureau of Land Management

All developed campgrounds and recreation sites are closed

The health and safety of our visitors and staff remains the number one priority of the Bureau of Land Management. In accordance with guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and with the Governor’s shelter in place order, the BLM will temporarily close all developed campgrounds and developed recreation sites in California, to help limit the spread of COVID-19.

The closure is effective immediately and will remain in effect until such time as conditions allow for safe use of the recreation areas. While developed recreation sites are closed, dispersed camping and trails remain open and available to the public.

The Alabama Hills are closed to all public accesss

The health and safety of our visitors and staff remains the number one priority of the Bureau of Land Management. On April 3, the BLM, in coordination with state, county and local officials, will temporarily close the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area and Special Recreation Management Area, to address public health concerns related to group gatherings and the spread of COVID-19. The closure is effective immediately and will remain in effect until such time as conditions allow for safe use of the area.

Dispersed camping and trails are open

Dispersed camping and trails on lands managed by the BLM remain open and available to the public, unless otherwise noted.

Visitors may continue to enjoy their BLM managed trails and open spaces in California while following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local and state public health authorities. Social distancing recommendations are extremely important to reducing the transmission of COVID-19 and may require that visitors avoid public lands during high-use times, such as weekends. Please limit any group activities to members of your household, and keep your total party to 10 or fewer participants. At all times, maintain a distance of 6 feet or more from other people.

The BLM is one of the few agencies that doesn’t seem to be actively discouraging people from doing things like hiking or dispersed camping. In the press release announcing the closure of developed recreation sites, they led with this: “Despite facility closures, millions of acres of BLM-managed public lands across California remain open to enjoy, as long as you do so responsibly.” Visit BLM California’s COVID-19 Update Center for more news.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife

The Trout Season Opener is delayed in Inyo, Mono, Alpine + Sierra Counties

After coordination with the three counties, CDFW has delayed the trout fishing openers scheduled to start on April 25, 2020, in Inyo, Mono, Alpine and Sierra counties. Also, after county coordination, in an effort to protect wild trout fisheries and stocked fisheries that remain open in these counties, CDFW is reducing bag and possession limits in a few, limited streams. These changes are set to expire May 31, 2020.

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